“Lottie, we need to move your matchmaking business into the twenty-first century. I’d actually settle for the twentieth century.”
“What century is it?” Lottie asked.
“The twenty-first,” Charlie sighed because she knew where this was going.
“Is it my business to matchmake?”
“Then my matchmaking business is in the twenty-first century.”
“You know that’s not what I mean. There are websites now that match based on algorithms. That’s what I went to college for, I can code one for you.”
“Baby, I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it again. I know better than any old all-go-rhythm.”
“It’s algorithm grandma.”
“That’s what I said. And I told you, I’m too young to be called grandma. Call me Lottie, that’s my name.”
“Lottie, you’re sixty-seven. That’s plenty old enough to be called grandma.”
“I may have been born sixty-seven years ago, but in here and here,” she said pointing to her head and then heart, “I’m the same age as you.”
“You are very young at heart. That’s why you should have a site where people can post their profile and choose who they want to be with.”
“People think they know what they want, but they don’t know what they need.”
“Save it. Save it. Save it,” she said waving her hand like she was shooing a fly away. I’ve heard it all before. I’m not a dating service like you’re talking about, I’m a matchmaker. My methods may be a bit unconventional, but they work and I’m not going to change them.”
“Fine,” Charlie conceded knowing this was a battle she’d never win. Can we at least give you a web presence? Create a page so people can contact you for your matchmaking services?”
“Now you’re talking Charlie. I like that suggestion. I even have an idea that might work online.”
“Luv by Lottie Love? Lottie helps you find the love you need?” Whitney read everything on the website as if it were a question. “Secret Santa Dates? What is this mess you’ve gotten me into? Faith?”
“A beautiful mess called love.”
“Despite what you,” she said and waved a hand towards the screen, “and Lottie think, I don’t need love. I’m happy with my love life.”
“You don’t have a love life.”
“And I’m happy with that.”
“You have to do this. I spent a fortune on this. Jace would kill me if he knew I wasted that kind of money.”
“Get a refund.”
Faith took the mouse from her sister-in-law and scrolled to the bottom of the website and read, “Refunds are only available if your match is unsuccessful.”
“Fine, my match was unsuccessful,” Whitney said.
“It doesn’t work that way. You have to go on the date, then I can get a refund.”
“If I go on the date, I should get the refund.”
“Ok, that works for me. Lottie’s success rate is near perfect, so I think your match will be successful.”
“You know, if you weren’t pregnant and I weren’t afraid of my brother, I would choke you right now.”
“Such violence. Maybe that’s the reason for your lack of a love life.”
Whitney narrowed her eyes at Faith. “What is it I’m suppose to do?”
“First you think of your ideal guy. Now, what would you buy him for Christmas?”
“A plane ticket to get away from my family.”
“Be serious Whitney.”
“I am being serious.”
Faith put her hand on her hip, well more on the side of her rounded belly. Her swollen ankles didn’t keep her from tapping her foot. She wasn’t intimidating in the least, but she was persistent and Whitney knew Faith wouldn’t let up until she got her way.
“Fine, I’ll think of a gift for my dream guy.”
Faith clapped her hands in excitement. “I can just sense you’re going to meet the one. You just need to make sure to set the wedding date sometime after I’ve lost the baby weight.”
“What?” Whitney didn’t understand how Faith’s brain worked. She barely agreed to the date and already the woman was thinking of flower arrangements and apparently bridesmaid duties.
“What what? It may be vain, but I want to look good standing next to you at the alter.”
“How did I get to the altar already?”
“I told you. I can just sense he’s the one. The one you’ll marry.”
“Even if he is, which I doubt, what makes you think I’ll have you as a bridesmaid?”
“I don’t think I’ll be a bridesmaid silly. I’m a married woman. I’d be your matron of honor.”
“Don’t you have to get back to work?”
Faith looked at her watch. “No, but I know you’re just trying to get rid of me so I’ll go and let you get to your Santa duties.”
Whitney shook her head as Faith waddled out of the door. She returned her attention to the website to review what she was suppose to do. Since she agreed to it, she wanted to get an understanding of how this thing worked. The first thing she was suppose to do was to imagine her perfect mate, making a list of qualities if necessary. Then she was suppose to think of what he would think was the perfect gift.
“I’m buying the perfect gift for an imaginary boyfriend. This is stupid,” she said to herself.
After she found the gift she was to post a picture of it along with a brief description. If a guy saw it and thought it was a great gift, he would invite her on a date. If she liked the gift he posted, she could accept his date. She could also search for gifts and send a date request. She wouldn’t be doing that.
She gave a halfhearted attempt to search Amazon and Etsy. They were her online goto sites. The attempt was less than enthusiastic because she really was satisfied with her life. There was a time when all she wanted was what her brother and Faith had. She’d always imagined this point in her life she would be settled with a husband and a child or two. She’d never jumped the first hurdle of finding a husband. Dating continuously went nowhere which lead her to giving up on matrimony. No husband meant no children because she didn’t want to be a baby momma, especially not with the men she’d dated.
If one out of three was considered a great batting average, she figured it would have to do for her life. There was no husband, and no children, but there was the contentment she’d imagined. She filled her time to keep the loneliness at bay. Now, her life was so busy that she couldn’t imagine fitting someone else into it. Her life had settled into a groove and she was content with that.
Others didn’t share in her contentment though. Faith had been set on getting Hope down the aisle before she’d made it down herself. She was going to put her foot down and make this the last blind date she went on.
Whitney was later than usual getting home because she stopped to shop for the perfect gift for her mythical perfect man. She had no luck. It was difficult to think of her perfect man. Or even a somewhat adequate man because she’d lost faith that he existed.
She didn’t buy a gift, but she ended up spending over a hundred dollars on herself. It was one of those shopping trips that everything she picked up was something she liked and it was on sale. The one thing she did learn from the expedition was that she didn’t want a man that was just like her.
Did she really want a man that loved tea- loose leaf tea? Not really. Call her sexist, but there was something inherently feminine about tea, unless they guy was British then it was okay because that accent made most things ok. She’d thought there’s a certain femininity to European men anyway. It was part of their charm.
Coffee, especially black coffee, was very masculine. She looked at the coffee stuff, but had no clue. She did however find three new blends of tea and a great little spoon device that holds loose leaf and bag teas for steeping.
After putting her new purchases away, she made herself a cup of tea to knock off the rest of the chill from the cold winter weather outside. There was nothing but reruns, celebrity Christmas variety shows, and claymation cartoons on TV. None of those things held her interest beyond the first commercial break so she decided to read. The e-reader was out of juice because she’d forgotten to take it out of her purse and charge it. She went to her bookshelf to choose one of the few physical books she owned and saw the stack of letters tied with a ribbon that she hadn’t thought about in a while.
The letters weren’t just a quaint decoration on the bookshelf. They were a treasure she found when she first started updating and remodeling this old house. She was tackling the project of adding insulation to the attic. The first step of the process was to clear out the few boxes of knickknacks and keepsakes. In one of the boxes, she found letters from the 1940s. They were correspondence between a young bride and her husband fighting in Europe. They were sweet, and heartbreaking, and hopeful, and a piece of history that couldn’t be taught in any book. She’d read them in one sitting that first night and frequently revisited them.
After retrieving the letters, she docked her phone and turned on her playlist of some of the jazz greats singing Gershwin hits. She also grabbed a glass of Easly’s Reggae Red wine. She sat on the couch with her legs curled under her and got lost in the world of Edna and Rodger. An hour had passed before she knew it. The only thing that interrupted her was the chime of her text notification on her phone. It was Faith looking for an update on her dream guy gift.
There was no update so she put the phone down without responding. She was so wrapped up in the love story of people that she didn’t even know that she forgot all about her own nonexistent love story. Was it even possible to have a love life when she was happy sitting and reading on a Friday night? What guy would be interested in wine and old letters any night of the week let alone on the weekend? She gasped when the answer hit her; her perfect match would be interested.
She jumped up to grab her phone, a bottle of wine and a wine bag, and her wrapping supplies. She was actually excited. This was the gift. The likelihood of any guy choosing this was slim, to none, but at least she would have done her part and gotten Faith off her back. If a guy chose this gift...it didn’t matter, she wouldn’t have to go on another bad blind date because no guy would choose this gift.
She was wrong. Five guys chose her gift by the next afternoon. The first one was offering a diamond necklace. Diamond weren’t this girl’s best friend. There was another that was offering a set of pots and pans. They were nice pots and pans, but she wasn’t a foodie and would much prefer someone cooking for her than her doing any cooking. Then there was the guy that was offering a boob job. While it was the most expensive thing offered, it was also the most revolting and she couldn't click decline fast enough. The fourth guy offered a spa day. Spas were nice, but it just wasn’t her cup of tea.
The gifts were nice (with the exception of the plastic surgery).To her they seemed like the gifts that guys thought a woman would want. They lacked personality. None of them held her interest. They didn’t speak to any part of her. That was until she saw the fifth gift. It brought back good memories. She didn’t know what the giver’s intent was, what he was envisioning in his perfect woman, but she knew how it made her feel. She decided that since she had to choose, she’d choose him.
The problem with being an only child is your parents depend on you, and you alone, to provide grandchildren. With every ache, pain, and case of the flu they confront their mortality and increase the pressure for grandchildren as if that would somehow make them live longer. The latest attempt to continue the family line had Sean sitting in a restaurant, with a horribly wrapped gift, waiting on a Secret Santa date that his mother had gotten him as an early Christmas gift.
He was early, not because he was excited, but because he wanted to get this over with. His mother knew he’d do anything to make her happy and that’s why she signed him up for this and disguised it as a gift. He’d banned her from signing him up on anymore dating websites. The loophole for this was that it distinctly said it was not a dating service, but a matchmaking service. She was now banned from using matchmaking services or attempting any matchmaking on her own in the future.
He did put forth a real effort. He had sat and thought for minutes about his perfect mate. He wanted someone that loved him -- faults and all. His last girlfriend tried to change him. He recognized that he wasn’t perfect, that he had his quirks, but by and large he was okay with himself. He was still evolving into the person he wanted to be and had no interest in becoming the person someone else thought he should be. That’s one of the things his mother never did, even the family thing was something she knew he wanted, too. She wanted him to be himself and supported him in his exploration of who he was.
She didn’t even bat an eye when he quit one of the top law firms in the city to become a history teacher. She was happy because he was happy. He finally decided that the old adage was true and that boys really did marry their mothers. He wanted a woman with many of the same qualities as his mother. His perfect woman would be supportive, positive, determined to make this life count, and could make things better with just a smile.
He looked up from checking the time on his phone to see a woman with black hair pulled into a ponytail, carrying a package that looked like it was wrapped by Martha Stewart herself, and smiling as she chatted with the hostess that was walking her towards his table. He stood to greet her. He’d been worried about this blind date landing him across the table from a cracken for the next hour or so. He liked a person that was beautiful on the inside, but he was superficial enough to want the outside not to be horrid. The closer he got, the less upset he was at his mother for setting this up. She was pretty in a cute way.
“I’ll stop in for lunch sometime so we can discuss that Mel.”
“That would be great. Enjoy your meal,” the hostess said.
“Hi, you must be Whitney,” he said extending his hand.
“I am. You must be Sean,” she said sitting her gift on the table and shaking his hand.
Her hands were cold from being outside, but her touch sent a wave of heat running through him. She began to unbutton her wool coat. “Here let me help you with that,” he offered.
“Do you come here often?” he asked after they sat down.
She raised an eyebrow and her lips curled up just a bit. “This is already a date so you don’t have to use a pickup line.”
“It wasn’t a pickup line. I thought you were a regular and that’s how you knew the hostess.”
She shook her head. “I just met Mel.”
“You did and you’re already on first name basis?”
“It’s on her name tag. If I know a person’s name I like to use it out of courtesy. It shows respect.“
“And the lunch meeting?”
“I noticed her necklace and commented on it. She told me she made it. I told her she could sell them. She said she’d been thinking about that but had no clue how to get started. I told her I could help.”
She said it like it was natural to help the hostess at the restaurant start a business. “That was nice of you.”
She studied his face for a moment. He couldn’t tell what she was looking for or trying to figure out. “Thank you.”
The server arrived at the table. “Hi, I’m Matt, I’ll be your server tonight.”
“Hi, I’m Whitney and this is Sean, we’ll be your patrons tonight.”
Sean and Matt exchanged a quick glance at each other.
“What can I get you to drink?” Matt asked.
“What local wines do you have?” Whitney asked.
“I’m not certain, but I can find out.”
“And you sir?”
“We’ll get a bottle of whatever wine she selects.”
“Are you a wine expert?”
“Not in the least. I do have some prefered local wineries though.” She paused and shook her head kind of to herself.
“The whole rule about not discussing work that Lottie Love has. I’m finding conversation difficult trying to navigate around it.”
He leaned in and hooked his finger for her to do the same. She did. “Between me and you, Lottie won’t know what we do on our date so we can throw her rules out.”
She tilted her head to one side. Then rested her chin on her head. They were still only inches apart. “I don’t want to throw her rules out. See, I’m okay with the no sex, and the no sex talk rules. I’m even okay with the no work talk rule because I don’t want to hear you go on and on about extrapolating derivatives and I’m sure you don’t want to hear me talk ad nauseum about the most effective ways to increase market share.”
He liked them leaning in like this. It was like they were the only two in the restaurant. He could also see her natural beauty close up. She was more than just cute. At first glance that was all she seemed. When he really looked at her he could see that she was gorgeous. She just didn’t have on a face full of makeup to emphasis what was there. Her lashes were naturally long, not because they were gunked with mascara or glued on. There was nothing covering her flawless latte colored skin. He imagined this was pretty close to what she’d look like when she woke up first thing in the morning. Not that he was thinking that would happen anytime soon.
“What if we limit our work talk to the natural flow of conversation?” he asked.
“That sounds good.”
“Can you extrapolate a derivative?”
“How should I know, that’s what you were going to be talking about.”
She smiled and he did too. Her smile already had that infectious effect on him. Then, much to his dismay, she leaned back in the chair and brought all the other patrons back into their world.
This was all going much better than she thought. He wasn’t the geek she thought he would be. She was okay with geek, she was in touch with her inner geek. He was actually handsome. She was not expecting that. Guys that looked the way he did were normally taken. She liked his dark hair and brown eyes.
She even liked his eyebrows, they were thick but not busy or approaching unibrow status. They framed his eyes well. In fact they looked pretty nicely shaped. Did he go and get them done or did they grow that way? Leaning close to him she could smell his cologne. It smelled delicious and she wanted to stay right there and continue to take in his scent. Which meant she needed to lean back, especially since their server was returning.
“So Matt, what did you find out?”
“We have Chateau Thomas and Mallow Run currently.”
“If you have Mallow Run’s winter white, we’ll take that. If not, bring the Chateau Riesling.”
“Would you like to order a starter?” Matt asked.
“We haven’t looked at the menus yet,” Sean said.
“But we’ll have a decision made when you return with the bottle of wine,” Whitney added.
“Are you allergic to anything?”
“Yes, I have a horrible reaction to food that is nasty. It makes me gag and spit into my napkin.”
“I’ve only heard good things about the food here so you should be good.”
They agreed on a starter before Matt returned just as she’d promised. They had even decided on their entrees.
Sean sipped his wine. “This is really good. I’m starting to think that you are a wine connoisseur.”
“I promise you I’m not. I just know what I like.”
“Do you like local wineries better?”
“Not necessarily. There are better and worse wines from other places. But I work with a lot of small businesses, including a couple of wineries, and know how important it is to support local businesses. Ordering this tonight, might mean another order for the winery. I ask for it at grocery stores, too. I have far more wine than I could ever attempt to drink alone.”
“Maybe drinking it alone won’t be necessary soon.”
“I mean, it’s the holidays. Gifts, parties, stuff like that.”
“I thought maybe you were offering to share a glass or two with me sometime.”
“Well, that seems like a promising possibility.”
She hated to admit it, but it did. This was going nothing like how she expected it to. She was just doing this to please her sister-in-law. Her expectation had been stiff conversation, decent food, and not a another thought about her date after an awkward goodbye. She already knew that Sean wasn’t a guy she could forget. She was already dreading the gloating smile Faith was going to have. She must have made a face at that thought because Sean dropped his smile.
“Or maybe not,” he said.
“The possibility is definitely promising, and that’s the problem. My sister-in-law, Faith, signed me up for this. She even talked about how she felt it in her bones that this was going to be some flowery romanticized word I can’t remember. I know she’s going to gloat.”
“My mother signed me up. She wants me to find the right woman because she’s eager for me to give her grandchildren.”
“Are you not eager for children?” Whitney was. Seeing Faith pregnant has made the ticking of her biological clock loud and ever present.
“I am. I don’t want to be the old dad. You know, the seventy year old at the middle school graduation. Finding the right woman has given me problems.”
“Careful, you’re on the verge of breaking Lottie Love’s rule about talking about exes.”
“No worries, I wasn’t going to go there. Do you think Lottie Love is real?”
“She sounds fake right? It’s probably all just some marketing ploy. Find a little old lady as the image of the company, because people trust little old ladies to match make. Meanwhile there’s some sixteen year old Harvard dropout coding in his mom’s basement.”
He choked on the bite of the starter he’d just taken. The cough turned into a laugh. “I love how you have a whole backstory.”
“You didn’t think the same thing?”
“I’m skeptical that she’s real, but the thought of a sixteen year old college dropout never crossed my mind.”
“I guess we’ll just have to get married to find out.” Sean choked again, but this time the cough didn’t turn into a laugh. The look of utter panic on his face did make Whitney laugh however. “I’m totally kidding. I have no expectations of a ring. It’s just that the site said that Lottie wanted an invitation to any wedding that resulted from one of her matches.”
“I, um, I didn’t see that,” he said taking a sip of his wine.
“I wish you could have seen your face just now. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. You looked like I just told you I was pregnant with quadruplets and they were yours.”
“Hey, no sex talk remember.”
“What sex talk? I didn’t say anything about sex.”
“You talked about being pregnant, with quadruplets, which made me think about sex.”
“See, there you go again.” He was smiling, with his arms folded as he shook his head in mock disappointment.
“I’ve not said anything remotely sexual.”
“First you talk about pregnancy, which usually the result of sex. Quads, that’s a lot of sex. Then you talk about your butt. I’m just a red blooded man, how could those things not make me think about sex. Especially when I’m sitting across from such a sexy woman?”
“Sexy? You think I’m sexy? That’s a first.”
“I’ve gotten a bunch of cutes, quite a few pretties, even a handful of beautifuls, but never sexy.”
“Some men go for the obvious and need everything on display. For me it’s much better to not see what’s there until I pull back the wrapping.”
He was looking directly into her eyes, but as he spoke, she felt like he’d visually undressed her. She could imagine how nice it would be for him to slowly unwrap her from her clothes until she was naked before him, exposing the gift of her her body for him. She broke his gaze so she wouldn’t have to see his reaction to the effect his words had had on her.
“Like that gift you brought, I already know what’s in it, but my fingers are still itching to unwrap it.”
“Why did you choose my gift?” She looked at the entree that had just arrived instead of him. She wasn’t sure she’d totally regained control of her hormones enough to look into the sensual depths of his brown eyes.
“My grandfather was in the military, he fought in World War II. He married my grandmother just before he left. She used to talk about waiting everyday hoping for a letter from him and praying that no one from the Army would show up with bad news. They didn’t have any of their letters. They got lost in a move somewhere along the way. It was those conversations with her that got me interested in history.”
“Are you still close to your grandparents?”
“Unfortunately they’re both deceased.”
“Sorry to hear that. Hopefully my gift will help you keep their memory fresh.”
“That was part of why I chose it. The main reason though, is that I love history because I had a connection to it. It was more than just a war that happened decades ago that I read about in a text book. I’m hoping these letters will help connect my kids to the personal side of it. That something in the letters will make them feel something and not just learn facts. Most of these kids had great grandparents they never met that fought in the war.”
“Your kids. Are you a teacher?”
“Sounds like you’re a pretty dedicated teacher. You don’t want them to just know stuff, but learn. That is cool. I had a few teachers like that. I had this literature teacher that introduced me to all types of great books that weren’t part of the curriculum. And a physics teacher that had me really close to declaring it as a major. What you do is pretty amazing.”
“Now that’s a first for me. Not to talk about exes, but most of the women I’ve dated lose interest when they find out I’m just a high school history teacher. They don’t think it is amazing.”
“Let me take a stab at that backstory. I’m seeing a woman, that dreams of being a stay at home mom that posts elaborate cakes and crafts she’s made to pinterest -- mainly to outdo other mothers. She leaves the children with the nanny while she shops, goes to the gym to maintain her size 2 figure, and ensures her natural color never sees the light of day. None of which is possible on a high school teacher’s salary.”
“Lottie had no rule about you discussing my ex. You nailed her on the head.”
“How did you ever end up with someone like that?”
“It was part of my former life. Before becoming a teacher, I was a lawyer. A successful lawyer.”
“And you gave that up to teach?”
He nodded and kept eating. His face had lost the zeal it had a few seconds before.
She slid her plate aside, resting her arms on the table and leaning forward. “That makes what you do even more amazing.”
“Really? You don’t think I’ve made a mistake giving up a well paying job to work for scraps?”
His eyes met hers again. She could tell he was looking for approval. She stretched out a hand and touched his. “Not at all. Life is about finding what brings you joy. Doing what makes a difference to others. Life is not about making money. After all it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven.”
He lifted her hand and kissed it. “Whitney, you are amazing and you quote scripture. I almost want to tell Lottie to get his best hoodie on and borrow his mom’s car for our wedding, except I still don’t know your last name.”
Their hands remained connected on the table. His thumb began to caress the soft skin of her hand.
“Westhall. I am Whitney Westhall.”
He let out a full laugh that turned a couple of heads at some of the nearby tables. “I’m Sean Westhall.”
“No way. Maybe we’re related.”
“It would have to be a while ago. I’m truly Scottish-American. I immigrated to the country when I was ten. ”
“What happened to your accent?”
“Lost it. Well more buried it. It was so thick the teacher didn’t understand me and kids thought I was weird. I watched TV and practiced an American accent.”
“Do you ever speak with it?”
“I’ve faked this accent so long that it’s real now. I do slip back into it if I talk to my mom a lot. She still has her accent.”
“I wish you still had it. I’m rather fond of Scottish accents. Why’d you immigrate here?”
“My father died when I was a baby. My now stepfather was over there for work when he met my mom. A year later he got offered a promotion that would bring him back to The States and he proposed. So see, we can’t be related. Most of my family’s still in the UK.”
“We still might be related. All but one of my Scottish ancestors are back in the UK. Only my grandfather is here. So the story goes that my great uncle was briefly stationed in England before going to fight in Belgium.”
“Is he African American?”
“There weren’t many African-American soldiers actually in Europe during the war.”
“No there weren’t.”
“Was he one of the Tuskegee Airmen?”
“No. He was field artillery. The 333rd to be exact.”
“Wait a minute. Belgium and the 333rd, was he one of the Wereth 11?”
She loved the way his eyes lit up like a kid that thought he’d seen a reindeer hoofprint on Christmas Eve. “Fortunately no, but he knew them. So did my grandfather. My great uncle didn’t die with them, but he was taken as a prisoner for months.”
“Please tell me the letters you’re gifting aren’t your uncle’s.”
“No. I found them in the attic when I was refurbishing my house.”
“I’m sorry. I kind of geeked out for a moment on history. Back to your Scottish roots.”
“My grandfather had befriended many of the soldiers that stayed in England. He was too young to fight. To show appreciation for the Americans that were fighting for his country, he began corresponding with some of their families back home. That included my grandmother, the younger sister of one of the colored soldiers -- his antiquated phrase not mine. The war ended but he continued to exchange letters with my grandmother. A few years later he’d graduated college, and then came to America to be with the girl he fell for in those letters.”
“Talk about bold romantic gestures.”
“You don’t know the half of it. She was black, he was white and it was the South. They made it work somehow and I have the black hair and these awful freckles to prove it.”
“So we could be distant cousins.”
“It would be very distant since my family had moved from Scotland to England way back in the mid-1800s. I once asked wouldn’t that make him English, it was the one and only time I heard that man curse.”
“It’s a small island with three countries but there’s a lot of pride in each one.” He took the last sip of wine from his glass. There was no refill because the bottle was empty. “You want to order more?”
She didn’t want more wine, not since she had to drive, but she didn’t want this to end. She also wanted to go some place cozier that wouldn’t be closing in another hour. “Maybe we could go to this place with really great desserts around the corner?” There was a brief pause,she got concerned that he wasn’t feeling the same and was going to say no.
They strolled side by side in the crisp air of the winter’s night. That is until she lost her footing on a small patch of ice and he reached his free arm out to keep her upright. His rescue brought their bodies against each other. He liked how they fit together and the way her eyes looked up at him. It would be so easy to bring his mouth to her full crimson colored lips. He lowered his lips and kissed the bridge of her nose.
“I don’t think your freckles are horrible. I like them.”
"I thought you were going to kiss me."
"I did kiss you."
"I meant..." she rose up on her toes and kissed his mouth.
Her lips were just as soft as he thought they would be. The sensation they caused was not expected. He could no longer feel the cold and his pants were becoming uncomfortably tight. She had been right in her assumption, he was about to kiss her before he chickened out. He was glad she was brave enough to do it. He was bold enough to keep it going. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer.
He kept his arm around her waist as they walked. It felt right. It felt good to have her nestled close to him. It was something he could get used to. He'd actually have to thank his mother for her meddling this time. When they reached their destination he held the door open and reluctantly let her go so she could enter.
"Whitney! How are you?"
"I'm great Becca. You're pretty packed. Do you have a table? "
"I'm packed because of you so I will find you a table if I have to build it myself. Just give me a sec."
"You couldn't have just met her."
"No, she's a client."
"What is it that you do?"
"The simple answer I've come up with for that question is that I'm a business consultant."
"What's the complex answer?"
Becca had called them over to a table in the back. It wasn't a traditional restaurant or bar table. It was a coffee table in front of two stuffed chairs. The chairs were different patterns and styles, but with coordinating colors.
"The complex answer is that I help small and micro-business maximize their potential."
"Like Mel, the hostess, she'd fall into that category. A microbusiness is usually a one or two man operation. It's quite often a hobby they've turned into a side business."
That hadn't ordered but drinks and desserts were placed in front of them. "Looks like Becca sent over the usual. You can order something else."
"This is fine. How do you help them maximize their business?"
"Many of these owners are good at what they do, cook, crafting, etc, but they don't know about running a business. That's where I come in. I help primarily with marketing, but with other things too, like their web presence. Or planning events like the trees on the patio."
Out the window he could see several trees decorated in various styles. There were a few couples and families strolling through them sipping drinks. With the dusting of snow that remained on the ground, it looked like a winter wonderland.
“In the winter the patio space goes unused. Nobody wants to sit outside and eat desserts in the winter. I came up with a charity idea that would boost sales and make use of the space. Each tree was decorated by a class from one one of the nearby elementary schools. Patrons get to vote by putting money in the container by each tree. The class with the winning tree gets a cupcake and cocoa party. The money from the voting goes to each class for school supplies. On Christmas Eve, the trees are delivered to less fortunate families.”
She had a barely contained excitement as she talked about it. She had kicked her shoes off and curled her legs underneath her as she talked. It was like she was in her own little world and had let him in.
“You’re really good at what you do. You managed to bring more people in and be charitable. I’m impressed. How'd you get into consulting?"
"My story's similar to yours. I was working in the marketing department at a major corporation and helping friends here and there when I saw opportunities they were missing out on. Helping was so much more fulfilling than my job, so I made a business out of it."
"None. What about you?"
"There are days when I'm tired of looking at sagging pants and boxers, but those are rare.”
“If you ever get the urge to practice law on the side, let me know. I’m looking for an affordable lawyer to handle contracts and stuff. And by affordable I mean dang near free.”
“I will keep that in mind.” And he would. He’d been thinking about taking on some pro-bono work just to keep in practice in case he decided to go back to law in a decade or two.
“I’m glad you chose my gift.”
“Likewise, I’m glad you chose mine. Why did you choose mine?” he asked.
He didn’t get why she was telling him her name. He liked the way her eyes lit up waiting for him to get it.
“W-Whitney W-Westhall.” Even with the emphasis on the first initial he had a blank look on his face. She took down her ponytail, shaking her midnight locks until they fell around her face. Then she picked the gift up from the coffee table and opened it. She took out the two gold cuff bracelets and put one on each wrist and formed the letter X with her arms. “Whitney Westhall, WW.”
He wanted to run his fingers through her hair and kiss that smile again. “Wonder Woman, WW.” He shook his head at himself for not having figured that out sooner. .
“I am Wonder Woman. At least I thought I was. I used to sketch the double W logo on everything, including myself.”
“You chose my gift because you used to think you were Wonder Woman?”
“Used to?” she asked with mock offence.
“Oh, are you one of those people that just like characters and goes to conventions.”
“I haven’t dressed like Wonder Woman since I outgrew my Underoos.”
“Underoos? I wanted a pair of Superman ones so bad. I haven’t thought about them in forever.”
“I hadn’t thought about them until I saw your gift. It brought back so many memories. I really did think I could grow up to be her. That didn’t quite happen, I fancy myself a bit of a wonder woman.”
“I have to agree. You’re a pretty wonderful woman.” She scrunched her nose up the same way she did when he complimented her earlier. It was cute.
“Thank you. Sometimes I lose sight of that but these bracelets will help me channel my inner Amazonian Princess. So, why did you choose to give this?”
“My grandparents helped out as much as they could, but it was pretty much just my mom growing up. She managed to work multiple jobs and still showed up for school plays. She did it all. I call her wonder mom. Wonder Woman kind of became our thing. She dressed up as her every year for halloween.”
“Your mom sounds great, but that doesn’t quite explain why you chose what you did as the perfect gift for your perfect match. Unless, are you a mama's boy?”
“I’m not a momma’s boy, but I really admire my mother. My perfect match would have all of the great qualities that she has. Honestly, I was not so kean on going on another blind date so I chose something that I thought no one would choose. On the off chance someone connected with my gift and picked it, I thought I probably wouldn’t like their gift.”
“How funny is it that we had the same logic? I figured anyone that would choose some old letters was either a good match or desperate. Did you get many responses?”
“Your gift was the only one I chose and you were the only one to say yes to mine. Was I your only response?”
“No, after I thought about it, I realized it was probably the wine that caught their attention. Your gift was the only one that sparked my interest though.”
“I’m happy it did.” She scrunched her nose again. He didn’t understand why taking a compliment made her do that.”It thought I’d be gone an hour tonight but it’s late and I don’t want this date to end.”
“Charlie, can you read this please? I can’t find my reading glasses.”
Charlie looked over her grandmother’s shoulder and read the screen. Then she sat back down and continued typing furiously on her laptop.
“No girl, I meant read it to me,” Lottie said.
“When you’re on that darn computer you get so distracted.”
“I’m focused, not distracted.”
“You’re young. You should be focused on life, not a computer screen. Now what does this say?”
“Nothing really. It’s a link to a video from a Sean and Whitney Westhall. Do you know them?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s probably junk mail. Them trying to sell you something or something.”
“Well I want to see it. Come show me how to make it play.”
Charlie smiled and shook her head at her grandmother’s lack of tech savviness. She clicked the link and waited for the video to load. She wanted to be sure Lottie wasn’t about to fall prey to some scammers. A man and woman appeared on the screen. From the angle and quality it appeared to be a selfie video recorded on a cell phone.
“Happy New Year Lottie Love. I’m Sean Westhall,” the man said.
“And a few minutes ago I became Whitney Weshtall-Westhall.”
“What? Why are you hyphenating your name?”
“So people will know I’m married. Whitney Westhall was my maiden name. Whitney Westhall-Westhall is my married name.”
Sean laughed and kissed her cheek. “I love your logic.”
“And I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said and kissed her, this time on the lips. “Sorry about that, but what more can you expect from newlyweds.”
“We know we broke your rule by not inviting you to the wedding, but when you elope there really isn’t time to send out invites,” Whitney said showing all her teeth in a big happy smile.
“We do want to invite you to our reception in two weeks as a thank you for marching us through your Secret Santa service,” Sean said with a smile just as big as Whitney’s.
“We’ll send you an actual invite with all the details, but we wanted to be sure you saved the date.”
They waved at the camera and the screen went dark.
“Oh, how sweet.”
“Sweet? The Secret Santa thing was only like a week and a half ago. They don’t even know each other, how could they possibly marry each other?”
“A week is plenty of time to get to know each other. They know what’s important, and that’s that they love each other. They have the rest of their life to learn the rest. See, this is why I told you I needed to be on the computer.”
“You told me?” Charlie asked confused.
“That’s the way I remember it,” Lottie said. “I wonder what the attire is. I think I’ll have to go and buy myself a new hat to match that suit you got me for Christmas.”